Friday, May 21, 2010



New York, like myself and The American has one volume setting...loud.

However, I think I can safely say the city and the husband trump me on both. When The American gets animated the walls actually shake a little. While on the phone I ask why he bothers actually using one-he could just as easily employ two tins cans and some string. His shout could not only wake the dead, it could catapult them from their graves and have them dancing a Mambo on 5th Avenue. Despite all this, he hears only my roar, as if the tiny hairs in his ear canal are tuned solely into my resonance:

"Honneeee. You're soooo loud." he often says to me.

"What? ME? How can YOU say that to ME?"

"Why are you getting angry? he laughs, as if he himself whispers his way through life.

"'Cos that is a fucking joke. You telling ME I'm too loud!"

"Well, you're being loud right now!"

"Yes. 'Cos you're making me angry telling me I am too loud!"


With a loud husband and the loud city and the sound of my own (moderately loud) voice, I frequently crave quiet. I fantasise about leaving my family and living on a mountain- as long as the mountain had wifi- I want quiet, not boredom.

Our apartment would be an obvious choice as my haven of peace. It's at the back of the building of a fairly serene street, the peace is peppered only by the hum of air-con units, an occasional plane overhead or a distant siren on 7th Avenue. But it has a major flaw-my family live in it. The bellowing American and The Teenager. While the latter is not loud, she does have a portable phone permanently glued to her ear in order to maintain constant connection to love of her life back in Cardiff. Her hair covers the handset, so I often think the constant chatter is aimed at me. This creates a lot of confusion, especially when I think she is calling me 'babes' and saying goodnight at 7 pm. Yes, havens of peace are hard to find in big cities. When there's three of you jammed in a pricey shoebox in the West Village, havens are hard to find in your own apartment too.

Today though, after 8 months and 19 days I found my peace. My quiet in the middle of NYC.

Today I found the New York public library and I now sit in this room:


What can I hear right now? Pretty much...Nothing. Not even the sound of breathing. There is just the occasional scraping of the elegant oak chairs against the tiled floor. Unlike this pic above (stolen from the internet) there must be 500 people here right now. It's like a giant exam room. Or a gathering of the civilised in a post apocalyptic movie, if they all decided to read and write with the end of humanity looming.

My surroundings are fantastically grand-from the long tables decked with reading lamps and leather bound reference books on the walls to the art deco chandeliers and neo classical ceiling. It's like a 1930's Gentleman's club, except it's a public space and there's free wifi. It's so unathomable for a girl that grew up going to a village library housed in a pre-fab.

For such public elegance though, you have to pay with compliance. There is no eating, drinking, mobile phones, photography or talking here. It's a room of zero tolerance and I will take it, as the pay off is jaw dropping.

Still, after a while the temptation to do something naughty is growing. I have already eaten half a Lara bar and have been getting a bit brazen with my water sipping. I have also tried taking pictures of the grand ceiling with the photo booth on my macbook-the results of which are not very good. Teach me for being so rebellious.


But such environmental perfection cannot last indefinitely. I wait for the catch...

Then the catch is wheeled in, in a stroller. Pushed by some liberal Yummy Mummy who thinks it's perfectly fine to risk everyone's calm by bringing a two year old into a quiet room. The toddler says:

"Gwaaa raa raa reee!"

"Shhhh" the Mother says.

"Gwaa raa raa reee" he repeats

"Shhhh" she says again, but then she laughs, which annoys me quite a lot.

"Din ba boo beee dem" he replies-which I understand is toddler speak for "Why I am in here? I can't even read yet."

Haven of quiet destroyed for now. I am packing up my laptop and leaving.

I will be back, though. This is still the best quiet that NYC has to offer. This is what I needed to find and the city gave it to me. It doesn't always kick sand in your face when you're down. Sometimes it gives you something back, a reward, a little gift.

Today it gave me this beautiful, breathtaking public place that only has one fault... it's open to the public.

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